Daniel Robin & Associates
Making Workplaces Work Better
By Daniel Robin
The previous article made a distinction between giving power away (never to be seen again) and sharing what power you have. Sharing power inevitably keeps the situation in your sphere of influence - it also provides a lot more fun and satisfaction. This article we'll get into practical applications of shared power and focus on situations where you'd want to resolve a conflict, influence an outcome, or shift a power dynamic.
Which of these three scenarios sound most familiar to you?
Have you ever been in a meeting that was supposedly designed for open discussion and full consideration of the group's input, but then somebody (usually a manager) makes a quick decision? If that drives you crazy, try asking some of the following questions:
"Are you making a decision or recommending something?"
If they admit to deciding on the group's behalf, and you're not sure you can live with either the process or the decision itself, you can inquire "On what [criteria, conditions, rationale] is that decision based?"
Voice tone and body language are everything here. If you can ask calmly, with a come-from of curiosity and interest, it will be disarming, not threatening. Be prepared to listen and verify what you hear. You may want to open it up to others in the group by asking: "What's your basis for deciding?" And people will explain what their criteria, conditions, or rationale would be for a wise decision. Comparing each other's "How we will know if the right decision has been made" is a lot easier than debating (or having to swallow) the relative merits of the decision itself.
2. False Responsibility
You've been asked to handle a project for your boss, but nobody seems willing to cooperate or help you complete it. This could be a problem, what I would call "false responsibility" . unless . the boss is willing to step in and visibly lend some support. You may need more information, resource assigned, or management backing. If you've been feeling like the lone ranger, it may be time to lasso some self-confidence and ask that boss to "clear the path" so you can do your best work.
3. Indirect (covert) Power Plays
A colleague stops including you in meetings. You get shut down at a critical moment during team-building. The parking spots get shuffled around and yours gets painted "Visitor." Not a good sign.
A covert, positional power grab can be just as counterproductive as a full frontal assault. Usually the person doing the grabbing, however, is actually giving away their own power in the form of negativity or blame. Not only does this make this person look foolish and unprofessional, but it also wastes precious time and energy that could be used to deal with the situation.
What can be done? First off, check your assumptions. Is this person actually trying to undermine you, or are they just being . less than considerate. If you really think they have destructive tendencies, your best offense would be to encourage this person to "tell it you straight." Then listen with the intent to understand, nothing more. Disarm . then walk away.
The Power of Balance is Impossible to Deter
It is easier to maintain your center than to find it.
Without taking another person's issue personally, what would be the kind
of power move that you would want to teach? How can your actions show your
true character, not just your reflex?
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